Travel industry must lead the way with ‘Brand Britain’

Other sectors are marketing Britain better than the UK’s travel and tourism trade, according to a leading branding expert.

Kurt Stuhllemmer (pictured), partner at branding and marketing consultancy Hall and Partners, said: “The travel industry could be more proactive and drive the conversation rather than being reactive.”

He was talking to delegates at the Future Global Opportunities for UK Tourism conference, held yesterday (June 28) in Liverpool as part of the International Business Festival.

Stuhllemmer said: “Britain is distinctive, with its arts, culture and heritage, but the tourism industry needs to be more innovative and lead the way with ‘Brand Britain’.”

He said the issues around Brexit meant that there were divisions within the UK – between the regions and between generations.

“What it means to be British is being challenged, and this uncertainty leads to a vacuum which can sometimes be negative,” he warned.

Stuhllemmer quoted a BBC poll about ‘Brand Britain’ in which 49% of people said they believe our best days are behind us – but a Deloitte survey found that 82% are proud to be British, thanks to factors such as the arts, monarchy, literature and culture.

“Travel can have a role in creating more optimism; it is rich territory that we can capitalise on,” he told delegates.

“Brands that do this well are not necessarily within travel.”

The country needs to project a ‘Modern British’ image, highlighting our values and inclusivity, he said.

“The monarchy is a fantastic asset – they are fantastically brilliant at exporting values of Britishness and the things that unite us,” he said.

He also pointed to marketing campaigns by Vauxhall and HSBC which ‘leveraged’ Britain better than the tourism trade.

Another speaker, James McVeigh, head of marketing and innovation at Festivals of Edinburgh, also highlighted the importance of branding.

“Our brand has a compelling narrative – we are the ‘World’s Leading Festival City’,” he told delegates.

The 70-year-old Edinburgh Festival has an audience of 4.6 million, putting it on a par with the football World Cup and second only to the Olympics.

He said it was successful because it is authentic – its events come from being part of the ‘DNA of the destination’.

The festival also gives people an experience they cannot get elsewhere, and it leads the way with experimental ideas, such as having the first mobile app in 1999.

• The Future Global Opportunities for UK Tourism conference heard from other speakers including Debbie Marshall (Silver Travel Advisor), Jennifer Cormack (Windermere Lake Cruises), Kate Sherry (Ryanair), Ali Gayward (easyJet) and Deirdre Wells (UKinbound). See the July issue of TravelGBI for in-depth coverage.